Marked by steep hills and long, twisting valleys, the highlands north and east of Traverse City possess a rugged beauty all their own. Looping back and forth through this landscape is the 75-mile Chain of Lakes, several considered among the most beautiful in the world. Many of the finest golf courses in the area are located in this region, and the area also lends itself well to downhill skiing.
In addition, there are a handful of scenic parks, including the Maple Bay Natural Area between Traverse City and Elk Rapids. Owned by the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, this area has hiking trails, beaches, and fields of happy sunflowers. The nearby Grass River Natural Area features over 1000 acres for hiking, bird watching, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and guided nature tours and classes.